The Denver Nuggets are looking for revenge for their 122-105 loss to the Dallas Mavericks when the two teams face off in Denver tonight, but they’re also looking to find their magic formula again. In case you missed it, Denver has been struggling – going 4-6 in its last 10 games against a softer schedule and playing a sort of discombobulated, unappealing basketball in its last 5 games that makes fans question the team’s direction.

The Mavericks are beat up, and noted Nuggets killer J.J. Barea will miss the game. As the Nuggets have shown over the last few weeks though, any random player can turn it on against Denver. The Nuggets should have a good home crowd and a beatable opponent, but showing up for four quarters is up to them.

The Basics

Who: Dallas Mavericks (15-29) vs Denver Nuggets (22-21)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude radio AM 950

Rival blog: Mavs Moneyball

Injury Report

Paul Millsap – out (wrist), J.J. Barea – out (groin), Seth Curry – out (lower leg), Dorian Finney-Smith – out (quad), Nerlens Noel – out (thumb).

Three Thoughts

This game should be easy. The Mavericks are 14 games under .500 and missing a raft of players. Thin teams should get run out of the gym in Denver with pressure being applied by both the starters and the bench until the cracks show in the opposition. The Mavs have no real rim protectors and don’t shoot especially well from anywhere but beyond the arc. They’re the worst offensive-rebounding team in the league, so when they miss their first shot they don’t get a second. Everything lines up for Denver to cake-walk to victory.

This game will likely not be easy. Rick Carlisle is a really good coach. He understands his personnel and more importantly he gameplans well for what other teams do. The Nuggets have this habit of allowing other teams to do what they do best while assuming they’ll get the same treatment in return, and that’s not what Carlisle does. The Nuggets aren’t a great defensive rebounding team, and they allow the seventh-worst percentage from three and the third-worst field goal percentage overall in the NBA. If the Mavericks were going to shoot well against any team it would be the Nuggets, as they proved the last time the two teams met.

Show. Up. In. The. First. Quarter. A chart from our own Ryan Blackburn today in this article:

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Playing catchup is exhausting, especially for a team with questionable bench production outside of Will Barton and Trey Lyles. If the starters play well in the first, the bench can lose the lead easily with a few missteps. If the starters fail early then sometimes the bench can catch fire, but it’s a hard thing to count on. The Nuggets have no reason to be the 6th-worst team in the NBA by first quarter net rating, but that failure has caught up with them in January. It’s time to put that to bed and come out like this win is important – because it is.

Prediction: The Nuggets come out slow again but get it done, 111-103. Nuggets fans put their knives away for a few hours.